growing pains: time to unfurl

It’s spring, and I am supposed to be excited about this, but I am slow to accept the lengthening days. I’ve become much more of a winter person, happy to stay inside on dark afternoons. Maybe that’s why the month of March was rather hard for me. However, when I looked through my notes and photos for a blog-post idea, I discovered that despite my curmudgeonly tendency, I did some fun things in March.

I saw the Frida Kahlo exhibit at the Portland Art Museum. Although there are about three-dozen other things I could share with you from that exhibit, I chose this:

It’s my favorite of the self-portraits on display. Kahlo is bold and fierce, so strong to endure so much physical pain, so brave to express political ideals. This delicate rendering of lace really touched me. A symbol of tenderness and careful observation. I felt sort invited in and accepted by Kahlo in this painting.

A week later, on a cold, rainy morning, I invited myself to my friend Amy’s back patio; she is the artist behind Vivid Element. I brought cookies, and she made me tea. We sat under blankets, talking over the hammering rain, catching up about art and family, reconnecting after nearly two years of solitary pandemic living. It felt great to “talk shop,” at one point getting a bit geeky about gold paint, which motivated me to get started on an idea I’ve pondered for months. I roughed out this sketch yesterday:

I want to draw ornate gold frames around my produce portraits. To me, this is both funny and reverential. An ode to the power of vegetables, but also funny because I plan to wrap broccoli and kale in gilded frames traditionally reserved for portraits of wealthy landowners, influential leaders, kings, and titans of industry. All Hail King Broccoli!

Another friend made me brunch and strong coffee. She’s a talented chef and generous host, and I used to feel shy about eating too much–as if being dainty meant being polite. Now, I show up hungry and devour everything she sets before me! It’s such a treat to have someone else cook for me, to see it all arranged on handmade plates and mugs, and I don’t know when I last ate split pea soup! Delicious!!

I also had a great time at the Share Fair in February, selling my produce-themed artwork and connecting with farmers, seed cultivators, mushroom growers, a family-run salmon company, bakers, and deli owners. The day flew by for me. I sold out of hand-printed towels and all but two produce portraits, and came home with a notebook of ideas and new friends.

March ended with a trip to the Oregon coast to see family friends. I’m still discovering sand stuck in my shoes and pockets, and I’m glad, because it reminds me of long, deep conversations, coming in from the cold to eat cinnamon rolls straight out of the oven, and a restorative get away.

So, I suppose this blog post has taught me that maybe March felt difficult because I left my house–I stepped out into the lengthening days and began exploring a slightly less pandemic-y world. I stretched myself in the gentlest of ways, yet I still felt the pull to stay in, stay safe, stay nestled underground for awhile longer.

I wonder if this is how plants feel, like the tulips that burst forth in our front yard seemingly overnight. I don’t even remember planting them, and yet there they are, stopping total strangers who linger and admire. Did they also stay hunkered down until some drive to grow finally pushed the first leaves up through the soil and into the light? I feel like I’ve got one leaf extended, and the rest of me is coiled and clinging to the stem, trying to fold myself back into the bulb.

Time to unfurl.

In case you’re feeling like me, wanting reasons to continue to stay inside and enjoy a quiet day, April is National Letter Writing Month. Consider writing a few letters to friends, family, or maybe even strangers. You can start your letter by describing the weather, or telling a joke, or listing what you’ve made for dinner the last few days. Writing, and receiving, letters is magical, and it’s a way to connect with others while staying cocooned inside.

My letter writing booklet available here for $5.50 or $8.50 if bundled with stationery and cards.

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